Tag Archives: kinship

‘Welcome Home’ Party

Been a slow couple of weeks for me on every front except work (seems like every time I find a minute to post, I realize it’s been over a week since the last update – for shame!). However, the Summer Festival in LotRO has prompted a return to regular gaming sessions, if for no other reason than to partake of the festivities. Not a whole lot new for this year’s festival, but I’ve always enjoyed the Dwarf and Hobbit races (very apropos), the new mount (obviously my first acquisition) is nice, and some of the cosmetic cloaks are particularly attractive.

A few nights ago, I found myself in a unique position – I had little work needing to be done as of “Yesterday“, and I was wide awake after everyone else had gone to sleep. Naturally I logged in for some quality game time. Now, even as recent as a couple of weeks ago, my destination would have been RIFT, but as I’d been checking in more regularly due to the Festival, I decided to drop in and reconnect with the kinship while I had some primetime availability.

Best decision I’ve made in a long time. I had such a great time that I logged in the next night. And last night. I can’t remember the last time I’ve logged into any game three nights in a row. It’s been so good that, at this point, I’m thinking of letting my subscription to RIFT lapse when it comes due for renewal.

In all the excitement of exploring a new world (and I haven’t even been past Scarwood Reach/Gloamwood) and delving the possibilities of new classes and mechanics, I’d almost forgotten how much of a difference a good social circle makes. My guild in RIFT is very helpful, and there are some great people there, but we are a fairly quiet group that tend towards “playing solo together”. Whether that’s the result of this particular guild, or due to the nature of RIFT itself is debatable (and for another post, I think).

That first night in LotRO, I happened to log in just as the group running Ost Dunhoth (or trying to run it!) was losing a member. I dropped in, and though we didn’t make it very far, it was a blast. Even getting trampled by oliphants multiple times was enjoyable as we all tried to get through the “gate puzzle” (I don’t know the name of the wing in which it’s found, but I think it’s the first challenge of Ost Dunhoth).

After a few attempts, and losing a few raid members to sleep/work/what-have-you, those of us left decided to run through Sammath Gul. Not entirely a challenge, as most of us had already been through it start to finish, but it’s a really fun run, and it let us relax and actually socialize instead of focusing solely on the task at hand. And socialize we did! I haven’t laughed as hard while gaming in probably a year or more! I’m all for the developers providing us with challenging content, but sometimes it’s valuable to just be able to play alongside friends; to share a fun experience that requires teamwork but doesn’t require absolute, laserbeam focus.

So after months of infrequent logins, I’ve come home to the game that has been a second home to me for years.  The whole experience has completely renewed my love of LotRO and re-fired my drive to get in and keep playing. Yet, oddly enough, what hasn’t returned was the feeling of grind that was so prevalent in everything I was doing before my hiatus. One might say, “Absence makes the heart blah blah blah”, but I think it has more to do with leaving behind the manic Completionist thinking. I was so focused on “The Endgame” and checking off every task on every list, for just my main, that I think forgot to simply have fun.

Hopefully we’ll have no more of that! I have no doubt that, at some point, I will find myself in the same position of being left with little to do but grind. But after taking some time off, I’ve got a nice chunk of content on which to “catch up”, and it’s likely that Isengard will drop before I’ve even gotten that far. That, and I think I’ve learned my lesson – when the burn of grind starts setting in, don’t try to power through it. Step back and remember the fun.

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‘For Jimmy’

(A week ago, our kin leader, Jimmly, lost his battle with cancer. Friends of Frodo held a ceremony for him shortly after, and I found the experience so touching, and so real, I wanted to write about it. Very quickly, what I was writing became a eulogy of sorts – a (very small) tribute to Jimmly. So instead of trying to fit what I’d written into a blog post about gaming, I’m putting this up as what it is – a remembrance of a dear friend.)

Friends of Frodo has lost our founder – a co-leader, a companion, and a dear friend. I didn’t know Jimmly as well as many in the kinship; I joined after he took a leave of absence from gaming so he could focus on his health. But shortly after his return to the game, I quickly learned many things about him. He was passionate about the things he loved. He had a voice you could never forget, a quick wit and was even quicker to laugh. He was generous, with his time and attention, almost to a fault. He was an eternal optimist, who found joy in all those around him and in every aspect of the worlds, real and digital, in which he lived. He was a friend to all.

As one of us wrote, “Jimmly was the best friend I never met.”

We’ve lost someone important to us, and for that we mourn. We mourn for his wife, his kids, and his family. We mourn for ourselves; for laughter lost, for quips we’ll never trade, for experiences we’ll never share. We mourn for a world a little less bright, having lost someone who desired, and deserved, so much to live.

But from our sorrow we should find inspiration. Our ceremony for Jimmly was one of the largest online gatherings of which I have taken part, and was a real funeral. Yes, there were true tears and true sadness, but also true support, true caring, and true friends. Our kinship was Jimmly’s creation, and is a testament to him; to the values he held, and inspired in others, and to the power of his personality. People from all over the world, from disparate walks of life, were drawn to him, and to the community he built. In our kinship I have formed real bonds, and have real friends; I would wager every member would say the same. And while each one of us plays a role in making Friends of Frodo what it is – a gathering of friends, a second family, and a true kinship – it all began with Jimmly. We are his legacy, undoubtedly one of many.

Thank you, Jimmly. We are forever grateful.

Tolkien was a firm believer in the power of music and song in every aspect of life; in his tradition of incorporating song, even in print, I’m including the following (but as I’m not a poet, I’ll have to rely on Jackson Browne).

For a Dancer by Jackson Browne

Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You  never know what will be coming down
I don’t remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you’d always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you’re nowhere to be found

I don’t know what happens when people die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening
And I can’t help feeling stupid standing ’round
Crying as they ease you down
’cause I know that you’d rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away
(Right on dancing)
There’s nothing you can do about it anyway

Just do the steps that you’ve been shown
By everyone you’ve ever known
Until the dance becomes your very own
No matter how close to yours
Another’s steps have grown
In the end there is one dance you’ll do alone

Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don’t let the uncertainty turn you around
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you’ll never know

For Jimmly!

In Memoriam

Founder and co-leader of our kin, Friends of Frodo, and our dearest friend, Jimmly, lost his battle with lung cancer this past Wednesday. To his family and all his friends – our deepest condolences and most loving thoughts.

Though I did not know Jimmly (and his many alts) nearly as well as many in our kin, I had the pleasure, the privilege, and the honor to spend many nights by his side. Jimmly was an amazing kinmate and friend, always helpful, always upbeat, and perpetually optimistic despite his illness.

James Huntington Turner

May your adventures continue forever.
You will be missed.

I Am Worthless…

Rawr...…but it’s (mostly) not my fault.

Finished out Volume 2, Book 8 last night, and, due to technical difficulties, I missed what would probably have been a very enjoyable fight. Nonetheless, I got to watch two very solid players from Talath Dirnen (an old kin of mine long long ago) take down Gwathnor. According to kinmates, this is actually a very fun instance. And I missed it.

To recap, I’d found another Burglar and his Minstrel friend willing to join me in this particular 3-man instance – something that made me very happy, as I’ve been remiss in the epic quests recently. Off we go to the Shadowed Refuge, talk to Lenglammel, and head into Azanarukar.

Now, this particular area is among my favorites. It’s very appealing visually, despite nearly everything being red (seriously, how do we walk around in there without third-degree burns?). The monsters are, generally, a little more “fantastic”, or flashy, than most you see in LotRO; most of the mobs in the Foundations of Stone have this very exuberant design. They’re very colorful and somewhat crazy, for lack of a better term.

Now, normally, I greatly appreciate the design of monsters in LotRO. They’re grounded, more or less, in reality (at least, if Orcs did exist in the Real World, that’s how I imagine they’d look). No bright green skin, not huge and bulky. They’re dirty, gritty, and really just malformed humanoids. Peter Jackson did them just right in the movies, and I’ve always like that Turbine took the same approach overall. It stays true to Tolkien’s vision. But every so often, it’s nice to fight some real “fantasy” creatures. Gwathnor and the caerogs are a perfect example. Gwathnor in particular is, I think, my favorite boss design.

Back to this particular incident; we head into the instance, following Magor into the first fight, and the game locks on me. This never happens. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me. And, of course, wouldn’t it just happen to occur during an instance I’d dearly love to run? Figures.

By the time I’d gotten back into the game, I was still in group, but I was locked out of the room where the final encounter occurs. I got to stand on the sidelines and watch. It looked like a great fight.

Had I been with kin, I would have asked them to leave the instance and start over again (yet another reason I prefer running with kinmates – there’s no pressure and little mistakes or inconveniences get overlooked). I’m not criticizing my PUG – they were really nice, but were well into the final fight by the time I got my issues figured out.

This particular mechanic – literally being locked out of a major encounter – is one that, while I understand its use, has always annoyed and frustrated me. At the very least, it’s a way for Turbine to “enforce” the design and flow of encounters which they have carefully, and painstakingly, constructed. It keeps players from “zerging” boss encouters, preventing them from just continually throwing themselves at the monster until it’s worn down. I get that. But it’s always reeked of laziness. Especially considering our character’s “health” is actually Morale, that defeat for us is never physical death but instead that our will to fight has been broken to the point of retreat.

Where is the chance for a true rally? Aside from the standard “rez” mechanic of healers, and the Morale boosts and restoration of Captains…once we’re down, we’re out. And once we’re all out, the monster goes back to full health, standing in the same spot it always has, as if nothing remarkable has happened. It’s always just been a little too standard for me.

All true heroes must fall, or falter, at some point; I don’t want a God-mode game where I can never die. That’s no challenge, and certainly no fun. We need to fall in order to make our comeback. But in MMOs, there is no real comeback – it’s black or white, fail or succeed, finish it or try again. There’s no ebb and flow to our battles.

What saved the night for me was what happened immediately afterwards. I had thought that, being unable to talk to Magor after the big fight had concluded, I was unable to advance the quest. Time to find another group, right? Well, Friends of Frodo stepped up yet again, and I had a full group backing me up in short order. I head back to the Foundations of Stone, run up to Lenglammel to restart the quest, and, to my surprise, find that I had completed the instance, despite being totally worthless in the actual fight. Well, everyone found that endlessly funny (for various reasons, but as I was quite embarassed I did lay on the self-deprecating humor pretty heavily). We all got a good laugh at Drannos’ expense. Six people gathered just to help me turn in a quest.

As Palinuris said, “Fastest Instance Run. Ever. Next time you need help turning in a quest, don’t hesitate to ask!”

There’s Always a First

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah...I had another post all set for today, but it’s just going to have to wait. I’ve had a first-time experience, not just in LotRO, but in MMOs in general. I didn’t ragequit, but I logged out pretty much disgusted. I consider myself a fairly patient person, and an optimistic gamer – I can find some value in pretty much any content I come across. Or, at least, I could.

The first part of this experience came two days ago, when I tried to finish the Water-wheels 3 man instance with two kinmates. The entire instance was going very well. I thought overall it was a great design, both in layout and in the mechanics of levers and gates, and freeing the water wheels of obstruction. Until the final encounter, it was shaping up to be among my favorite areas.

Then we faced Caerlûg. And the whole thing fell apart. Between the knockback throwing us into certain death beneath the pistons, the 1k damage hits, and the stun that kept us from pulling the lever that interupts Caerlûg’s healing cycle, it was like beating our heads against a stone wall. We got frustrated enough to call it a night.

Last night it was the Dark Delvings and Gurvand. Some of you are already groaning (those who have probably already run the instance). This barely started out well, and we never made it past the first boss fight. Between the insane knockback of the Void Eater, being pushed out of the fight within minutes (either by being knocked off the platform or being caught in the Glow Worm strands), the insane number of adds leading to complete lockdown on induction-based skills, and the ridiculously punishing debuff (either for being outside the “magic circle” or just plain “taking too long”), our group was fed up in short order. There’s a reason that Dark Delvings is the least-run instance in Moria – it’s just not fun. I pity the Guardians and Wardens  who need this instance for their class quest (I think).

Both of these, in my mind, represent bad design. For Water-wheels, the instance requires a specific combination  of classes (or nearly enough as to not make a difference) – Minstrel and Champion. The last slot is for the lucky player.  For the Dark Delvings, it’s because success seems to be entirely dependent on luck – if you’re lucky enough to avoid getting caught in the strands and triggering exponential adds, or you’re lucky enough to avoid getting knocked off the platform, or you’re lucky enough to have exactly the right classes, ad nauseum. Too much luck, not enough strategy or skill, or both.

Some people are probably thinking, “Boo-hoo. Many players have completed those instances successfully. You’re doing it wrong.” That may be; they may be “do-able”. But are they fun? Are we enjoying ourselves while running the instance? Content that is required for many players! This is why Turbine failed here; not because they made impossible content, but because they made content that is impossible to enjoy. When 6 level-capped players with decent gear drop group and collectively state, “I’m not coming back here until they patch this *%$#”, the developers are doing something wrong.

Class. Lots of Class.

Big night for me, in game, last night. Not only did I manage to knock out the level 58 class quest for my Burglar, I grabbed my fourth piece of Moria Radiance armor and managed to snag a nice 2nd Age mace. Also finished up all the quests I had (and could find) in the 16th Hall, bringing the number of Moria instances I’ve fully completed up to two!

None of this, of course, would have been possible without the help of my kin. Every time I log in, I’m reminded of how much I was missing by ignoring the social side to LotRO. Sure, I may have eventually gotten the class quest done, and eventually would have found a nice 2nd Age weapon (this is my second, but the first was bought in the Auction Hall). But my last run through 16th Hall, with a random group, was nearly a complete debacle, and the group decided to skip the Burglar class quest, despite the presence of not one, but three Burglars in the group. (One could argue that three Burglars led to the “debacle” part of the run, but that’s beside the point.)

And in six months of playing solo, that one run through 16th Hall was the only time I could pull a full group together. Barely anyone runs the Radiance instances except for Grand Staircase, for the fact that it’s the quickest and easiest way to accumulate Moria Tokens. A few runs in a row and you can pick up a good number of pieces in the armor set. That’s how I did it, despite my need for something specific in the 16th Hall. And the kicker is that I had far more fun in the 16th Hall. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve run Grand Staircase so many times, or that I was with kinmates. But then again…

The classiest part is this: the group last night formed up almost purely for my benefit. Our Captain accepted the invitation to group up immediately upon logging in, before he knew what we were doing. And when he found out, not a moment’s hesitation. Sure, everyone grabbed a few Tokens and knocked out a few quests and/or deeds. But they could have been anywhere, and chose to help me. That’s warm and fuzzy.

Though I don’t necessarily (fully) agree with Turbine’s decision to place class quests in the Radiance instances, I do understand it. It presents a nice level of challenge, and by spreading the class quests across the various instances (16th Hall is for Burglars and Rune-Keepers), it encourages players to return to those areas. For whatever reason. And I also understand the idea behind Moria Tokens – accessibility to high-level gear for a greater number of players. But the Token system also means that players will follow to path of least resistance and greatest reward. For those of us with class quests not in Grand Staircase, it’s a cold, cold world.

Rift-ing (Again) and Playstyle

Been a busy few days in the Real World, but over the weekend I ran through the Rift of Nurz Ghashu with the kin in what we’re calling the Rift Race. Two full raid teams competing to see who can beat the balrog first. Winning team members get a gold each. I hadn’t originally planned on attending, but I’m really glad I did. The friendly competition added a whole new layer of fun to the whole thing, and, as it tends to happen, I learned a little something about myself in the process.

The Rift is really the only 12 man raid I’ve ever completed in LotRO; I never finished Helegrod, and I haven’t yet gotten to the Vile Maw or any of the Mirkwood content. When I originally (finally) finished it,  it was either right before or right after the release of Moria (can’t honestly remember). But I wasn’t even yet level 55. Running it at level 65, with a group almost entirely of level 65 players made it a whole different experience. No less challenging, really, but far less harrowing and stressful. In short, far more fun.

What I learned about myself is how my playstyle has changed in the short time since I joined a kinship. Normally, I’m pretty driven to achieve something in the time I’m online. I don’t have a lot of time to play, so I have to make the time I do have count. It’s almost a compulsion – see as much as I can and consume as much content as possible. Mostly I’m trying to get through as much solo content as I can while keeping one eye and two ears open for the chance to group up when necessary.

Not so now. Since joining up with Friends of Frodo, I’ve run through several of the older instances for deeds, had a full group formed just for me to finish an epic quest, and now run the Rift. The manic nature of my playtime has diminished, significantly. The Rift run was purely for fun, six hours of fun. It’s been a long time since I spent that amount of time in game just to enjoy myself, and the company of others.

Coincidentally, Zubon at Kill Ten Rats has a post up on the, shall we say, flawed perceptions that come along with PUGs (pick up groups). It struck me as particularly relevant, considering the stress-free experience of running with a kin.